1975 Spa Grand Prix
The ups and downs continued for Barry Sheene and a fair proportion of the grid at Spa. What started out as a race amongst equals turned into a war of attrition. Including a particularly hairy seize-up at 180mph!
Winning his first 500GP just a week earlier, Barry Sheene must have thought he could do it all again at the superfast Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-francorchamps. ‘Bazza’ did break the lap record in practice and looked on for another win on the works Suzuki-4. But things often have a way of unravelling in GP racing...
Right from the start of the race it was the two fast MVS that got away with seconds in hand over the chasing pack. Indeed, by the end of that first lap it was the Italian Gianfranco Bonera and our own Phil Read who were both making serious headway from the chasing pack of Barry Sheene, Giacomo Agostini – on a modified Yamaha 0W23 – and 22-year-old John Newbold, on a Suzuki-gb bike. There appeared little that anyone in the chasing pack could do about the quick-starting Italian machines and by lap four Sheene was a full eight seconds behind the two leading bikes. Sheene refused to roll over though, and over the next three laps at Spa he found his form on the Suzuki, edging back Read and Bonera bit by bit until managing to pass the pair on lap eight. It was a brilliant scrap back to the front of the race. But the elation for Sheene was immediately countered by disappointment for Ago. Giacomo pulled into the pits at the same time, the modified Yamaha clearly not yet ready – at this weekend at least – to be pushed hard enough in the hands of the superstar who was looking to regain the title. The gremlins struck elsewhere, with Agostini followed into the pits by Bonera and his missing MV. Meanwhile, Tepi Länsivuori’s works Suzuki seized again (it had already nipped up four times in practice – a dire time for Tepi). Jack Findlay, who had a great race through the pack, scrapping his way up from
seventh place to fourth, also found himself having to pit, although this was for fuel but thankfully his team were rapid in getting the gas in the bike and he managed to get topped up and get back out into the race still in fourth place. Amazing. The familiar leading duo of Read and Sheene were playing cat-and-mouse all over the circuit. With two laps to go Barry was setting up for a similar game plan to what landed him the win the week before at Assen: sit in Read’s wheeltracks and pop him to the line. Unfortunately, Barry’s bike seized at the ultra-fast Masta Straight at 180mph. Somehow Sheene kept it all upright, catching the bike on the clutch and – with the big Daytona accident still in his mind – he took the option of cruising back to the paddock in one piece rather than spreading himself across Francorchamps’ finest Tarmac. This time it wasn’t the usual gearbox issues that caused the nip-up (as many suspected) but a bolt-on that was part of the drive gear that had sheared. Read was the happy winner and leader of the championship as he crossed the line, now 11 points ahead in the standings over second placed Agostini.the young Newbold finished a great second in the race on the Suzuki GB-4, while veteran Findlay came fourth on a Yamaha ahead of Scotsman Alex George, who passed John Williams in the last lap – four Brits in the first five!
There was an 11min delay at the start of event number four – the 500cc race and then all hell broke loose. More than 100,000 spectators came to see the Belgian GP in 1975.They were all over the place, on the pits, billboards, car roofs, trees etc. The race was one of four in the GP series held on public roads that year. With 30 riders at the start, Gianfranco Bonera, on the MV Agusta, took the lead ahead of Mick Grant on the Kawasaki, König rider Horst Lahfeld and Victor Palomo and Giacomo Agostini, both on Yamahas.
The first right-hander just after the start: #4 Gianfranco Bonera, IT, MV; #88 Mick Grant, GB, Kawasaki; #36 Horst Lahfeld, DE, König; #54 Victor Palomo, Es,yamaha; #8 Giacomo Agostini, It,yamaha; #2 Phil Read, GB, MV; #14 Dieter Braun, Ge,yamaha; #18 John Williams, Gb,yamaha; #80 Bernard Fau, FR, Yamaha; #12 Barry Sheene, GB, Suzuki; #20 Horst Kassner, Ge,yamaha; #52 Nico van der Zande, Nl,yamaha; #50 Patrick Pons, Fr,yamaha; #6 Teuvo Länsivuori, SF, Suzuki; #78 Olivier Chevalier, FR, Yamaha; #10 Jack Findlay, AUS, Yamaha; #22 Alan North, Sa,yamaha; #59 Pentti Korhonen, SF, Yamaha; #60 Paolo Pileri, It,yamaha; #28 Thierry Tchernine, Fr,yamaha and #46 Alex George, Scot, Yamaha.
A fish-eye-lens view of the terrace of Hotel La Source that was almost situated on the track at the hairpin before start and finish. What a place to be!
It was a hot day and many looked for some refreshment near the ’Eau Rouge’ that streamed underneath the circuit just after the start. It was also one of the illegal ways to enter the paddock. The Hotel Eau Rouge was next to the paddock and a favourite place to play billiards for many riders.
Above: Between races, stranded riders were picked up by car and due to the high number of them they were even transported in the back of it. On the picture are some 125 riders, among them Swiss Hans Müller and Austrian Rudolf Weiss.
Below: The medics of the Continental Circus on their way to a crashed rider.